Saturday, August 23, 2014

A little happy news in the world of education for some inspiration

School starts in three days.  I'm extremely excited to be starting my new job at my new school, and my head is awhirl with lesson plans and course overviews and all kinds of middle school things that I never thought about.

And, this article reminds me that there are courageous and honorable teachers out there.  Isn't that great?  Bonus for mentioning my old friend Josh.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Adventures and Asthma

I came home to a sad, empty house and a Simon-filled hole in my world.  It's been really tough getting on with things, frankly.  I miss him every single day, every minute, it seems.

However, in order to dispel the empty-house syndrome, we decided to invite two new friends into our home.  They are still letting us get to know them and our list of names continues to grow.  We met them at a Petco where they had been rescued by an organization from a kill-shelter.  Both are about 5 months now, have startlingly different personalities, and are quite incredible.
No names, lots of adorables.

Then, in a whirlwind of packing, we did a short (26 hours) bike tour to the high Unitas with some new people, and then I took off for a 10 day bike-packing trip in Idaho.
Bikepacking in the Uintas...practicing for Idaho

Alas, the trip was not to be incredibly successful for me, sadly.  Although it was incredible (views, roads, hot springs, nature, mountains), my asthma started to act up the first mile, and never really let up. It got moderately scary, especially lying in my tent all night coughing and wondering if I'd ever sleep.  Or, the next night, lying in my tent after too many puffs on the rescue inhaler and lots of caffeine (effective asthma treatment), wondering if I'd ever sleep.

Making the tough decision to go home, somewhere in Idaho
I decided not to risk myself or my companions, and set off solo towards the next major town- about 30 miles (10 of them seriously uphill) away.  The thing that was scary is that the only people who knew where I was going to be were headed to an even more remote part of the forest; no phones, no people.  I had everything I needed- warm clothes (which was good because one morning we woke to find our water bottles frozen!), bear spray (totally unnecessary), and more food than I could have possibly eaten.  There was water everywhere so that made it easy to stay hydrated, but even so, I didn't feel completely comfortable.  The climb was on a dusty, steep road and my goal was to keep my heart rate incredibly low, even if it meant walking my bike.  I was very successful at this, actually, moving along at a high RPM pace (which, if you don't ride bikes, you should know is not only good for your knees but also good for energy conservation) and although my progress was painfully slow, there was progress.

However, when given the opportunity for a ride, I took it.  No shame.  Ok, a little bit of shame, but getting into trouble in the backcountry because I made stupid decisions isn't something I want to happen to me.  I got a lift for about 4 miles, the last four miles to the summit of the big steep pass, and pedaled all the way down to McCall.  All told, I ended up riding about 25 miles that day, and came into town to meet a nice group of cyclists who hosted me at their camp site and gave me access to a much needed shower.  They also fed me and, when I mentioned that I was considering trying to get back to the town where I left my car (about 40 highway miles, 50 dirt miles away), threw my bike on their truck and drove me.  It was in the direction of where they were going anyway.

So, exhausted, sore, breathing poorly and with some disappointment, I returned home.  And broke my toe, but that's another story.  Also, the reason why I am inside on a beautiful summer day with my foot up and a grumpy expression on my face.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


> Simon died this morning. I am in Guatemala and broken in bits.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Return to Guatemala

I am headed back to Guatemala.  Why?  Because I haven't actually used my Spanish in a year and I am feeling nervous and rusty.  Because my Great Divide ride is being pushed back a year due to my riding partner's injury.  Because I want to.

This year, I'm updating the packing list a bit because I'm going to be spending one week in a touristy area on Lake Atitlan, doing what I decided not to do last year (that is, studying at the lake at a less well-known school).  So, a little bit more personal security this time.  I'll be at La Escuela de la MonaƱa for two weeks and at a school in San Marcos for one week. Instead of being gone a whole month, my trip is only 3 weeks.  Of course, the way I pack, the difference between 3 weeks and 6 weeks in negligible.

I've bought (and I hope it arrives before I leave!) a personal door lock .  I will continue to use my portable safe.   I'm trying to show self-restraint in not buying another amazing travel skirt.  (Because I'm not taking two, I just really want another.  It's the best thing in my wardrobe.)  

I am leaving in just over a week.  In the meantime, I have to move out of my classroom and put all my stuff either in the house or in my new classroom, and get ready to go.

Exciting stuff!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Gigantic News

After spending most of this year completely miserable at my work and telling myself that the first year is always hardest, that sticking it out will be worth it, and generally lying to myself, I found a job elsewhere.

Sure, it'll be my fourth school in four years (if you count HeadStart, which I do).  Sure, it's two new grade levels (7th and 8th) and a somewhat new subject full time and part time (Spanish, outdoor education).'s at a fantastic school where I truly feel like I will fit in.

So, I gave my resignation yesterday to my current employer and tried very hard not to be smug.  I also cancelled the other interviews I had scheduled and turned down the other (great) position that I had been offered at a different school.

Big stuff.  Big changes.  I am so ready to be looking forward with joy instead of dread and frustration.

So, that's good.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bicycle Handlebar Purse Reviews

I ride my bike.  I carry a purse.  I ride a few bikes that don't have adorable, practical baskets on the front.

I've been searching near and far for a great handlebar purse.  There are a few options, and all have pros and cons.  Here's my thoughts:

First, to give an idea of what I normally carry to the store, to and from work, especially when I'm on my bike:

  • purse-inside-purse.  This is a small sling bag by Lululemon that holds my absolute essentials- wallet, lipgloss, a pen, sunglasses, phone, keys, and my inhaler.  I can easily remove this purse and put it in my ski bag, overnight bag, etc.  
  • inhaler spacer (it's about the size of a toilet paper tube)
  • light colored glasses for riding at dawn/in the dark/dusk
  • hat, gloves, headband
  • far too many colors of lipgloss
  • sharpie
  • bottle opener
  • phone charger, cable, and headphones
  • front and rear lights, bike map, some freebies for my work as a Bicycle Ambassador
  • a granola bar or two

Po Campo 6 Corners Wristlet*
Pros: Super cute, great attachment system
Cons: Tiny, expensive
Overall:  These handbags are adorable, expensive, but most importantly, TOO SMALL!  I'm just not a clutch handbag sort of person.  If I can't strap it to my body or sling it over my shoulder, it's not going to work for me.  Plus, my inhaler+phone+sunglasses all will not fit together.
*I've never actually bought one of these because when I tried to put all my crap in it at a store, I couldn't even get half of it in.  So perhaps it's not fair to review it, except that I wanted to buy it; it just didn't serve my needs.

Bontrager City Sling
Pros: Perfect size; dedicated iPad pocket, sunglass pocket that can also hold a phone, and water-resistant material.  The design of the bag folds over so water has to work much harder to get inside.  There are clasps on the inside of the flap for security and two zip pockets.
Cons: Requires a special, rather large mount. It's not easily interchangeable between bikes.
Overall:  If it weren't for the attachment system, this would win in all ways.  There are the exact number of pockets placed exactly where I need them.  I can put everything I need in the bag, and occasionally stuff a small puffy vest in it, and still close the flap.  It's waterproof enough that I don't need to worry too much about getting caught in a storm, and cute enough to not look like something just for bikes.  (At least from the front; the back has the attachment system.)  However, I hate that I can't take it back and forth between bikes without tools and bolts.  After three years of heavy use, the attachment system in the purse is starting to show some wear, and since I now share a bike with my husband, I can't keep a dedicated ugly attachment system on those particular handlebars.  So it has been retired for a while.
I noticed that Bontrager has also made a more feminine model; I'd love to know if it's as well made as the City Sling, but I also saw that it has the same attachment system.

Haiku Handlebar Tote
Pros: Really nice looking.  Decent capacity.  Can be moved from bike to bike.  Built in key fob, ipad pocket, and three other internal organizing pockets.
Cons: Attachment system is prone to being lost; no way to ride in the rain with it because it is open to the elements (the bag "closes" with one small snap closure).  Hard to close.  The shoulder strap is thin and looks rather cheap for the price of the bag.
Overall:  I wanted to love this bag.  I've tried.  I've been using it almost exclusively for two months now, and while it's a nice bag, there are two major issues that I have with it.  The first problem is with the attachment system.  Basically, it's two velcro loops that, while are quite well-made and sturdy, are not attached to the bag in any way.  I've already lost (and luckily found) them at least three times.  The other big issue is the closure system and the fact that it is hard to close if the bag is full.  It's just a simple snap and a strap that goes over the middle of the bag, leaving most of the bag open to the rain (or things falling out).  When it rains, I've had to use a backpack cover to protect my stuff, which isn't particularly nice looking or practical.  Ultimately, I will be retiring this bag and trying to sell it.  I'm disappointed; it's one of the nicest things I've ever owned, but poorly designed for my lifestyle.

Timbuktu Colby
Pros: Great attachment system, the right number of pockets, flap to keep out rain, reflective details on the sides.  Cute as a button.  Good price point, with the durability and water-resistance of other Timbuk2 products behind it.
Cons: So small I can't fit half of what I want to carry in it.
Overall:  I couldn't wait to get this bag.  It's perfect in so many ways, especially the attachment system.  It's velcro tabs that are attached to the back of the bag, but can be tucked into a small open pocket, completely hiding the bicycle-friendly nature of the bag.  There's also a clever back zip pocket allowing access to the main body of the bag, like a real handlebar bag.  The strap is wide without being bulky, and the two color choices are both fantastic.  But it's tiny.  Maybe for a  lady who only has phone/wallet/shades, it would work, but no matter how many different times I tried to stuff my crap into it, I failed.  Timbuk2, please make a bigger version of this!  Your design is exactly perfect, just enlarge it!  Ultimately, I returned it, sadly.

Freitag Joan F60
Pros: Recycled materials, high style, great attachment system, full closure, expandability, color options.
Cons: Price; no way to see before you buy unless you are in Europe, NYC, or one of the other expensive places where they have a storefront.
Overall: I've been wanting this purse for so very long, but was concerned that it wasn't big enough or had enough pockets.  Finally, I met a very nice lady who used one, and immediately realized it was perfect.  I ordered it today because it hits all right points.  It looks great on or off the bike.  It's a good size and has built in expandability.  The materials and design make it highly water resistant.  Yes, it's the most expensive option by almost 100%, but I prefer quality to quantity, so I think it's the right bag for me.  Hooray!  My search is over, at least for now.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

La Primavera

Spring- doesn't it sound nice?  With springtime comes time for a teacher to decide her future.  And this is a tough one.  Do I stay at my school where everything is hard and I am unhappy, but I'm making a huge difference?  Do I go through the devastation and effort of finding another job?  Do I compromise somehow?

I'm somewhere in the middle.  I've decided to make a few changes to make my life better in the immediate sense, and work towards some long-term goals that I have in the hope that looking toward the future will bring me closer to joy than wallowing in a less-than-ideal present.  And next year...come what may.'s the plan:

  • Ride my (new, awesome) bike most days to work.  Andy helped me rearrange my classroom to fit the bike and now that I've been riding again for about 4 weeks, I feel so much better about everything.  I didn't realize how much my foot/asthma/needing to dress nice was keeping me from riding and thus contributing to my misery.  My new bike (ok, our new bike) has addressed most of those concerns for the better, and I feel great about it.  
  • Take a class.  I've been wanting to take a watercolor class because I have few actual technical skills.  While I know that I'm no genius when it comes to visual art, I love painting in my journal and I get great pleasure out of using my awesome watercolor set.  So, I signed up for an on-line class.  Because, you know, I'm not busy enough yet.   I'm curious about an on-line class, but I like that I can work through it on my own schedule.  
  • Take a real vacation.  Not a vacation where I go in to school and work for three days and spend another day or two at home doing things on the computer.  Nope.  Unplug, leave the lesson plans and Ipad at home, and go to the beach.  Seriously.  Tickets to LA (not my ideal beach destination, but convenient for a variety of reasons) have been purchased, beach hotel secured, and cost be screwed.  I can't wait!  Spring break!
  • Register now for a Master Naturalist course.  Basically, spend a week learning about the natural history and biology/botany of a region (mountains, wetlands, desert) with passionate conservationists and educators, and get a certificate saying that I did.  That is a no-brainer for me.  I also applied for a scholarship, but haven't heard back yet.  
  • Plan a Big Ride.  I haven't been on a bike tour since my first foot surgery, and it is time.  My friend and I (and possibly another) will be riding south to north on the Colorado section of the Great Divide.  Because of work schedules, my dear husband won't be able to join us, but this is my big summer hurrah.  I should probably start planning it now...June 20 is shockingly soon when I think about planning things like food preparation and mail drops.